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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

IfLS Conference: Life in a High Carbon World

Published: 2 October 2015
IfLS Conference 2015

The Institute for Life Sciences recently hosted its fifth annual conference with the theme Life in a High Carbon World. The conference programme brought together speakers from various fields with different perspectives to stimulate discussion on how carbon fluxes affect large scale systems and cycles and subsequently, the functioning of organisms, ecosystems and human societies that depend on them.

Over 100 delegates attended with representation from colleagues with interdisciplinary interests in this field and external visitors from industry and other institutions.

The conference highlighted the need for the integration of the natural and social sciences in order to both identify and address the consequences of life in a high carbon world. The speakers studied the issue of high carbon at multiple levels, with topics ranging from the geochemistry of ocean systems to the role of social policy. Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner’s keynote lecture discussed the impact of climate change on ocean biology and subsequently demonstrated the need to utilise the physiological underpinnings of natural systems as a tool to inform the long-term global goals that we should be striving towards. Professor Andrew Watson addressed the subject of the ocean in the global cycle and Professor Chris Perry focused on the trajectories of coral reef carbonate production and accretion in a high CO2 world.

The broad range of topics covered by the speakers at the conference allowed for the identification of multiple strategies for mitigating the negative consequences of a high carbon world. Dr Denis Pasero’s presentation, for example, highlighted that innovative technologies can make small but powerful changes to everyday life, whilst Professor Mark Maslin’s thought-provoking discussion regarding the influence of population growth and global development emphasised the need for a re-evaluation of social policy.

The conference both added to and challenged the existing body of knowledge regarding life in a high carbon world. Several speakers acknowledged the complexity of making accurate forecasts and promoted the reassessment of current measures. In particular, Professor Ian Williams’ talk highlighted the need for international standardisation of carbon measurement in order to successfully quantify and manage the current situation.

The stimulating conference concluded with a poster session which was sponsored by Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute. The first prize poster award was presented to Luca Peruzza and colleagues, Ocean & Earth Science and the runner up award to Jessica Bellworthy and colleagues, Ocean & Earth Science.


Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner, Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Bremerhaven.  Keynote lecture: "Climate change impacts on ocean biology: physiological underpinnings, projections and uncertainties."

For more information

The aims of the IfLS conference are to bring together experts from across the interdisciplinary spectrum, facilitate the opportunity to discuss, meet and collaborate in order to continue to address the key global challenges associated with living in a high carbon world. For more information on the conference or the Institute for Life Sciences please contact

The particular strength of the conference was its interdisciplinarity. It became very obvious that the sole knowledge of the impact of high CO2 on natural processes is not sufficient to prevent climate change. We need collaborative efforts of natural sciences, social sciences and policy makers to provide a framework to implement the changes required for a sustainable future of human societies.

Prof Jörg Wiedenmann - Conference host and IfLS theme lead for Global Change: Systems and Cycles
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